AN MSP has claimed the UK government’s plan to close the Capital’s Redford barracks is purely a case of asset stripping.
The closure of the historic barracks was part of a package of cuts announced in November 2016 by the then defence secretary Michael Fallon. Fifty-six bases across the UK, including eight in Scotland, were earmarked for the axe.
Gordon MacDonald, the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Pentlands, wrote to new Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson in May, urging him to drop the planned shutdown. He has not yet received a reply.
Mr MacDonald said the closure, scheduled for 2022, would have “extensive consequences for Edinburgh”.
He called into question the Ministry of Defence (MoD) claims over the potential for savings from the move.
And he said the MoD had already identified the potential to build up to 711 houses on the 200-acre Redford site.
“With land in Edinburgh currently selling at £2 million per acre, the Tory government would bank over £250m from this settlement,” he said.
Mr MacDonald said the MoD had claimed the closure of Redford would generate savings for the UK government.
But he questioned the need to save the £3.1m a year it costs to run the barracks since it represented 0.009 per cent of the total MoD total budget, which in 2016-17 was £35.3 billion.
Mr MacDonald suggested a more likely motivation was the financial windfall from selling off the land for commercial property development.
He said: “It’s time for the government to be honest.
“If this was genuinely about saving money within the defence budget, then perhaps they should look to the £205bn they are wasting on Trident and not the £3.1m that it costs to maintain Redford Barracks.
“It’s clear that this is about asset stripping Scotland’s defence estate.
“The UK government want to close down Redford Barracks in order for them, not Scotland, to profit to the tune of £250m.
“On top of this, they have shown no regard for the huge upheaval in the community that this will create and no regard to the impact that this will have on local public services.
“It’s time the Tories started telling people the truth about this closure that will have serious implications for so many people in Edinburgh.”
Redford accommodates 240 serving personnel and 80 civilians, also providing accommodation and rehearsal space for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
Mr MacDonald challenged the MoD assertion the barracks, which were built between 1909 and 1915, were “no longer fit for purpose” since no plans had been announced to close Wellington Barracks in central London, which were built in 1833.
Redford was originally designed to accommodate 1,000 men.
At the time of construction, the barracks were the largest military installation in Scotland since Fort George, near Inverness.
In 2011 it was included on an MoD closure list announced by the then defence secretary Liam Fox.
But two years later his successor, Philip Hammond, reversed the plan, which also included building a brand new “super-barracks” at Kirknewton in West Lothian.
The MoD has insisted it is committed to “an enduring defence presence” in Scotland and said it continued to invest heavily, with an estate eight times the size of Glasgow.
A statement said: “Every penny raised from the sales will be reinvested back into defence, creating areas of military expertise in specific locations around the country.
“As well as saving the taxpayer money – around £140m by the end of the decade – the changes will reduce the number of personnel being regularly moved between different bases, providing greater long-term stability and certainty for our armed forces and their families.”